At the heart of Fondren Library, the Woodson Research Center Special Collections and Archives is a treasure trove of artifacts, including rare photos, documents and memorabilia that range from the quirky and fun to the somber and informative. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Woodson, which was ranked among the 20 most impressive university special collections by Online Education Database. With the help of Melissa Kean ’00, centennial historian, we examined a few unique pieces to showcase Woodson’s dedication to preserving Rice history and to honor the center’s 50 years of service to the university.

Lovett’s Spectacles
At the far end of the archives is a box containing objects that were on the desk of Rice’s first president, Edgar Odell Lovett, at the time of his death in 1957. The box includes an address book filled with pages of his tiny, neat handwriting. There are documents, books, a pen and a paperweight, among other things. But what may really impress the history buff is his pair of foldable, round spectacles, which are still intact. Lovett continued to have an office on campus as president emeritus years after he stepped down as president

Owl-opoly
In this version of Monopoly, players can buy Lovett College, Baker
College, Fondren Library or even Willy’s statue for up to $4,000 “Owl-opoly” bucks. But first, choose to play as President David Leebron, William Marsh Rice or your favorite mascot, Sammy! We applaud whomever came up with this ingenious idea.

Hand-Carved Rice Owl Toilet Seat
Who could have come up with the idea of a Rice Owl toilet seat? We don’t know either, but we can thank Jeff E. Ross ’75, who, at the suggestion of his wife, donated the toilet seat that had been gathering dust in their garage. He apparently bought it at a garage sale about four decades ago. Although its true origin remains a mystery, we’re grateful that this quirky piece has a new home at Woodson.

Computer Panel
At one corner of the archives stands a large glass panel. A complicated web of cables runs within. The panel is one of 20 that were constructed for a computer built by Rice students between 1958 and 1961 to support research that, as the story goes, would have been impossible without it. The computer itself remained in operation through the late 1960s as a model of how they should be built. Kean discovered the panel in a storage closet in Abercrombie Engineering Laboratory and had it moved to Woodson.

— A version of this article first appeared here.

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